Memorial Day and Self-loathing

I spent a long time deciding whether to fly my American flag today. I’ve done it every year in memory of soldiers who didn’t make it home, and in honor of my father, who did. He gave four years of his life to World War II, then had the luxury of dying as an old man. He was so proud to be an American, and proud of his service to the world. I was proud of him, too, and proud to be part of the next generation of Americans. 

But I’m not proud to be an American today. I won’t go into details. You know why. We’re a petty, mean-spirited, apathetic people, collectively, and we like it that way.

Before it comes up, no, I won’t move to Canada. Mindless jingoism isn't a requisite for American citizenship -- at least not yet. Besides, if we’re not eager to embrace millions of people running for the border, I doubt Canada is, either. 

America is us, and we suck. But I’m going to fly the flag, because I’m not flying it for America. I’m flying it for the people who died in service to big ideas.

Even as I write this, I’m not sure I’ll post it. I’m not sure I want to deal with the shit-storm that comes from failing to genuflect appropriately on this high holy day of the military industrial complex. If you’re reading this, it’s because I got drunk and decided I had too many friends. 

A few of the dead were brave and true and died like paladins. Some would have died robbing a liquor store if military service hadn’t given them a hero’s end. The rest fall somewhere in the middle. They weren’t avatars of virtue. They were generous and loyal and stupid and hypocritical. They drank too much and donated to charity and volunteered in soup kitchens and beat their kids. They were human, and all of their lives meant something.

Today, I raise a flag and a glass to those crazy, brave, stupid, brilliant, racist, violent, peaceful people who died not necessarily because the cause was righteous, but because we told them to.

I fly my flag as a reminder that their deaths are on us -- not on our government or our military, but us as a free people who make monstrous choices. 

What’s the point of all this? I don’t know. Remember, I’m drunk and I hate having friends.